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Woods trailing by four at Dubai, refuses to discuss payment for failing desert golf course

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Tiger Woods surged into contention at the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday, shooting a bogey-free 6-under 66 in his bid to win his first tournament in more than a year. But he's still not talking about the reported $55.4 million he received from a Dubai developer to promote a yet-to-be-built golf course, the construction for which has been halted.

A United Arab Emirates business magazine reported Thursday that it has seen documents confirming Woods received the payments to promote the $1 billion project, with the course at the centerpiece of a complex of 100 villas, 75 mansions and 22 palaces.

Woods refused to comment again Friday on the contract he signed with the course developer, part of a conglomerate controlled by Dubai's debt-squeezed ruler. But he said he hoped to meet with developers to discuss reviving the project while he is in Dubai.

He only wanted to talk golf Friday.

With stellar putting and a consistent short game, Woods made six birdies for the day's low score. He was at 7-under 137 after two rounds, four shots behind leader Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy followed his opening 65 with a 68 to maintain his lead going into the weekend at Emirates Golf Club. The 21-year-old golfer from Northern Ireland earned his only European Tour victory at this tournament two years ago.

A shot behind at 10 under were Sergio Garcia (67) and South Africa's Thomas Aiken (67), followed by England's Steve Webster (68) at 8 under.

"I'm just concentrating on myself," McIlroy said. "I don't mind who plays well over the weekend or who shoots what score. As long as I go out and shoot the numbers that I want to, then that's the most important thing."

Woods was tied for fifth with Jean-Baptiste Gonnet of France, Anders Hansen of Denmark, Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland and Brett Rumford of Australia.

Woods, who has been outdriving his playing partners, No. 1-ranked Lee Westwood and No. 2 Martin Kaymer, added accuracy to his blistering drives and approach shots. And unlike Thursday when he missed several makable putts and hit approach shots wide of the green, the winner of 14 majors routinely gave himself chances.

"It felt good (Friday). I hit a lot of good shots," said Woods, who likened his game to the way he played at last year's Chevron World Challenge, where he lost in a playoff to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. "I felt like I drove it pretty good and more than anything I controlled my traj (trajectory), which was nice," he said. "I feel good. We worked out a few of the things last night that I didn't like."

McIlroy has struggled to meet expectations since winning the Quail Hollow Championship last year. He says he's approaching his game with more patience, and it seems to be paying dividends -- he finished second in last month's Abu Dhabi Championship.

McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 second hole then settled himself with five birdies over his last 12 holes, including the 18th for the second straight day.

"I thought after the start that I had, I really hung in there and stayed patient and just sort of picked up my birdies when I could," McIlroy said. "I think I was 5 under from 7 onwards. So, really pleased with the round."

Much of the talk going into the tournament was on the powerhouse group of Woods, Westwood and Kaymer. But only Woods delivered on Friday, with Westwood (70) at 5-under 139 and Kaymer (71) at 4 under.

Westwood had four birdies but bogeyed two of his last four holes, missing two makable putts. Kaymer, meanwhile, never seemed to get going, posting three birdies but also two bogeys in a row during his first six holes.

"I didn't hit it so good. I didn't give myself enough chances," Westwood said. "It was just a plod round really, a bit of a boring day."

Westwood, who last year struggled with a calf injury, said his distance has been suffering as has his control. It showed on approach shots that fell short, leaving him long putts on several holes that just missed.

Westwood could lose the top ranking if Kaymer wins and he finishes lower than second, and if Kaymer finishes second and Westwood is out of the top 10. If Kaymer is tied for second, he could still become No. 1 for the first time if Westwood finishes out of the top 36. Woods could move ahead of Kaymer if he wins and Kaymer finishes outside the top five.